Auctions are funny things, and there is no telling what can happen. The most dramatic results can be influenced by something as frivolous as literally one man forgetting to set his alarm clock on time, but I suppose that is why we find them so fascinating. Since the big sales took place earlier this week in Hong Kong (Christie’s and Phillips, the latter with two separate auctions)Â I’ve been poring over the results to try to find a theme or two on which to report.Â
Instead, I found a handful of occurrences that are, well, kinda silly â as in actually amusing. At least to me. I’m not saying they’re wrong, or anyone involved in making them happen is wrong or misguided, it’s just that conventional wisdom and reason might place a question mark in the margin next to them in the history books. Here are five silly things that happened in Hong Kong this week.
Eric Clapton’s 3970G Sold For $459,000, While His 5004 Sold For Over $50,000 Less, And His 3970R For Almost $200,000 Less
We all know Eric Clapton was a major Patek Philippe client in the past, and had some super special pieces made for him. They come up at auction every so often and they always do well, but this week, Phillips sold three Clapton Pateks and the results were a little funky. There were three watches, all with similar dials, two 3970s (one in rose, the other in white), and then a 5004 in rose with a black dial.Â
For the uninitiated, a 3970 is a perpetual calendar with chronograph. A 5004 is a perpetual calendar with split-seconds chronograph â a decidedly more difficult watch to produce and one that is considered among the holy grails of watchmaking. And yet, when the hammer fell, the white gold 3970 sold for a whopping $459,000 while the 5004 brought around $405,000. So, are 3970s hotter than 5004s all of a sudden? Nah, because Clapton’s rose gold 3970 brought a good $200,000 less than the white gold example.Â
Why It May Have Happened: White metal, salmon dial. Simple as that. Patek collectors are gaga for this combination and let’s not forget, it only takes two to tango to drive up the price of any sale. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two battling for this watch already own the “vintage collection” 5070 and 5970 with white gold cases and salmon dials that have been offered to Patek’s most VIP clientele over recent years. This watch would complete the set.
Why It Probably Shouldn’t Have: Because you can buy a 3970G for around $100,000 any day of the week, special ones for the $150,000-$180,000 range. And because the 5004, which remember was also a special example made for Clapton, is a much more special watch from a production stand point.
This Absolutely Mint And Stunning Rolex 4062 Didn’t Sell At All
When I previewed the John Goldberger curated Rolex Milestone Sales, many watches jumped out at me â how could they not? All 38 pieces were hand chosen by arguably the greatest collector and aficionado in the world of vintage watches. One piece that stuck with me, however, was this reference 4062 with two-tone case and matching two-tone bracelet. The thing is absolutely stunning, not to mention with a flawless dial. Oh, and that bracelet is original to the watch and made by Rolex! It was a favorite of mine and had I had the time to write about the sale with my picks beforehand, it surely would’ve been in the top five. And yet, when hammer fell, it failed to make its reserve of $50,000.
Why It May Have Happened: It’s not a Daytona, I get that. And it’s two-tone, and pictured on a two-tone bracelet, and features a dial signature from a retailer few have any real feelings about. Also, the reference 4062 is certainly one of the dressier watches made by Rolex and that’s just not en vogue at the moment.
Why It Probably Shouldn’t Have: Because this watch is absolutely stunning, and rare, and in remarkable condition. It is a watch that shows thought and consideration from its owner, and the fact that it failed to meet reserve of $50,000 when a tropical 6265 (which you can find daily on Instagram) brought $137,000, is a downright crime.
A Patek Philippe 5711P Nautilus Sold For Over $177,000
The 5711P is a reference that was spoken about in whispers among the world’s great Patek collectors, and one that used to mean a lot to its owners, and also to anyone who cared deeply for Patek. This was an insanely special watch that often required an application and a lengthy (think years-long) wait to receive, if the application was approved. And then this happened. Patek Philippe canceled the original reference which featured a normal diamond-less bright blue dial, and replaced with with a run of over 700 pieces complete with diamond-full dial, and stamping announcing the 40th anniversary of the watch. Those that owned the original were a little perturbed, because the this hidden gem of a Patek was now in the limelight and not, one might argue, in its best form. And then one of these original watches came up for sale at Phillips and sold for HK$1,375,000, or $177,284. Retail on the normal 5711P before it was cancelled was around $106,000 and retail on the anniversary piece is $113,400.
Why It May Have Happened: Before this October, I would say that most collectors did not know that the 5711P even existed. The introduction of the anniversary piece brought its existence to the forefront, and highlighted the strength of the original piece, with its diamond-less charm. Now, those that liked the idea of the brick of a watch that is a platinum Nautilus, but didn’t love the diamond-y nature of the anniversary piece had a chance for this very rare iteration, and it went big. Also, to be clear, these watches have always had a strong following and the first 5711P which came up for sale even before the world at large knew it existed, was also in HK this time last year and it sold for almost the exact same price.
Why It Probably Shouldn’t Have: Because now, all of a sudden, the giant sleeper that was the 5711P is well known to the world at large. Oh, and there are now 700 more 5711P’s in the world, even if they have a different dial. Is this one better looking and rarer than the anniversary model? Sure, but still.
An AP Chrono-Tourbillon AND An IWC Minute Repeater Could’ve Been Had For Under $80,000, Together
That complicated modern watches are hurting at the moment is, well, obvious, but I still think it’s worth providing a little perspective here about deals that can be had, if you simply don’t care about ROI and just want some fantastic high-end watches. In the Christie’s sale, one could purchase both a white gold minute repeating IWC Portuguese Minute Repeater, AND a pink gold Audemars Piguet chronograph with tourbillon, for under $80,000, total. The IWC sold for around $27,000 while the AP sold for just under $52,000. Pretty remarkable, really, for two big time complicated watches from high end and well regarded manufactures.
Why It May Have Happened: Modern, complicated, not Patek. Times are tough out there, people, and these are exactly the types of watches taking the biggest beating â very expensive (maybe too expensive when new?) pieces with lots of complications, made in lots of (maybe too many?) examples. I’m not sure how many of the AP Chrono-Tourbs were made, but they’re out there. And the IWC Minute Repeater? This was just one of 250 in white gold â that’s two hundred and fifty minute repeaters made by IWC that year. Did I mention there was the exact same watch available in pink gold in the same sale and that was also one of 250 pieces? The glut of high-end complicated pieces available in the market right now is very real problem for everyone.
Why It Probably Shouldn’t Have: The glut of high-end complicated pieces available in the market right now is very real problem for everyone, that is unless, of course, you are in the market for a seriously bad-ass watch and simply do not care about ROI. Come on! That’s a freaking AP chronograph tourbillon for fifty grand! And a stunning white gold IWC minute repeater for 27! I’m not sure any one could ever criticize you for buying either of those watches at those prices as just, someone who appreciates what went into making them.
All Three Dufour Simplicitys Sold For Equal To Or More Than ANY Tourbillon From Either Greubel Forsey Or A. Lange & Sohne
I already shared with you how strong the results were for the first three Dufour Simplicitys were last week but lets go a bit further and see what else you could have purchased in the same sales for the same money, or less. How about a 30Â° tourbillon from arguably the finest watchmakers in the world, Greubel Forsey? Yeah, because that went for less than any Simplicity across metals, sizes, and dials, even the 34mm watch. Or how about the almighty Pour Le Merite Tourbillon from Lange, which is, to me, one of the greatest watches ever made by Lange, and maybe one of the best tourbillons in history. What’s more, the two 37mm Simplicitys sold for more than a freaking GF Invention Piece 1! This is right up there with the holy grails of mega-watches of the modern era (and only 11 made!), and yet it sold for as much as these simple time-only watches.
Why It May Have Happened: Dufour is a special man with a special aura around him and his watches, and I believe in that as much as anyone. These were the very first three Simplicitys to ever appear at auction and it filled the need of dozens of people who had longed for his trademark piece. Greubel Forsey is a different animal in that they are a slightly larger (but still very small) company that still produces watches each year, and will for the foreseeable future. Also, there is something very timeless about a small time-only piece, and the same might not be true for the oversized, open-worked tourbillons of Greubel Forsey.
Why It Probably Shouldn’t Have: I love Dufour, personally and professionally, but Greubel and Lange aren’t exactly slouches! In fact, I would say they are potentially the two best tourbillon makers in the world right now â at least both in the top five. Come on, GF with Dufour is behindÂ Le Gardes Temps, and are actually close friends, often seen together at trades shows. They do not cut corners of any kind. Lange, is the same way, and they are really beginning to have some great brand equity behind them in a way that could, one day, challenge the likes of Patek for the king of the hill. (As a matter of fact, Dufour actually owns a Lange Datograph and has gone on record more than once that he thinks their finishing is among the best in the world.) I think Mr. Dufour himself might even admit that it is a remarkable thing to see his Simplicity sell for the same or more as either a Lange or Greubel Forsey tourbillon, from as simple watchmaking point of view.